John Thornton looks on Barrick Gold Corp. as a patient finally ready for discharge from hospital and determined to abandon the fast living that landed it there.
In his first on-the-record interview in almost a year, the executive chairman of the world’s largest gold producer touched on all the hot-button issues — from his perspectives on acquisitions and disposals to the sprawl of his board to his own controversial pay packet.
Criticized for lacking industry experience, the 62-year-old banker-turned-miner could be forgiven if he chose to gloat: on his watch Barrick has transformed from market casualty to darling, culminating with a peer-beating 82 percent stock surge this year. A big-picture guy, he speaks in entire paragraphs from a mile above ground where the way forward is clear: it’s time for Barrick to get off the defensive, albeit cautiously.
“When you’re coming out of intensive care, both for the good of your health and for purposes of reputation, it’s extremely important to be clear and transparent about what you’re doing,” he said in New York on Wednesday. “All of those things argue for going slowly.”
Thornton’s stated goal is to make Barrick one of the best companies in the world this century, in any industry, which means starting to think about acquisitions. Senior executives have been running through deal scenarios to “exercise the muscles.”
To be sure, the company is “nowhere close” to an acquisition despite the fact there are no shortage of opportunities amid what had, until recently, been a four-year downturn for gold. “The first thing we do absolutely must be successful,” Thornton said.
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